How to get Nontraditional Students to Attend College

After being out of school a number of years the thought of returning to school can be pretty intimidating. Many people who have been out of school for a decade or even more have a hard time fathoming the idea of going back to the classroom.

For every adult who returns to school, there are likely several others who, while interested, are tentative about the idea. Despite these hesitations, many adults are still finding their way back into college to continue their education.

Deciding whether or not to enter college, either as a returning or a first time college student is a big decision and one which often marks a significant crossroads in an adult’s life. If you know someone who falls into this category it’s important to offer them a lot of support and encouragement as they reflect on potentially pursuing a college education.

As the potential nontraditional student deliberates what they want to do, you can try to hearten them by pointing out how learning is timeless and there is never an age where one can stop learning new concepts. This often presents the decision in a new light because one of the biggest hesitations stopping people from going to college is their age. Today’s campuses are pretty diversified since many nontraditional students are finding their way into the classroom and embarking on the educational journey. Illustrating that many other people pursue a college education later in life is a positive perspective to point out.

Making the leap back into the classroom after an extended break is difficult and the transition can be challenging too. Some of the best ways to support the nontraditional student are to:

*Encourage. Encouraging words and moral support go a long way. A resounding “you can do this!” will mean a lot and give someone the endorsement they need. Point out how many students are returning to school these days for many reasons such as job retraining, change of career or to simply finish a degree they’ve always wanted to pursue.

*Help with any transition. Offer to help with the logistics of going to college, such as filling out applications and any kind of financial papers which need tending to. The paperwork entailed with admissions, financial aid, registrar and bursar can be pretty intimidating and by offering to assist with these, your friend or family member will likely be grateful and be more inclined to further pursue the academic journey. For many students, all the paperwork alone is s huge deterrent.

*Support. You can offer solid support by helping student find resources to help them succeed. If they are hesitant, steer them towards an academic and/or career counselor who can further advise them. Not only does this provide direction, it also helps the nontraditional student realize they are not alone and there are many people just like them going to college.

*Accompany them to information sessions. Many colleges use these information sessions as a means to recruit new students; offer to attend some of these seminars with them and help ask questions.

The nontraditional student profile is growing and emerging as a standard in the college population. The statistics of nontraditional students continues to rise as more educational opportunities are developed to allow flexibility of learning. A good number of universities now support distance learning, satellite campuses, evening and weekend course offerings to accommodate the flexibility the nontraditional student needs.

Continuing education is a great way to get into college. The hardest step is the first one, but once that barrier is crossed, the rest is a challenging, but very rewarding journey. At one time I worked in an admissions and registrar’s office in a college and the diversity of students which walked through the door was amazing; I worked with students just out of high school up to the age of 85. Many of the nontraditional students were hesitant, but with some gentle encouragement to get the ball rolling, many would apply and register for classes.

That first step is a big one, but it’s the one which makes all the difference in the world. If you support your friend or family member from the beginning, this will be one of the greatest gifts you can give them. One of the most gratifying experiences I had in my years at the college was when a student or graduate came back to visit and tell me their success story.